Healthy Diet for Athletes

Healthy diet is essential for athletes. It is not only the quantity of food ingested, but the quality and balance of foodchoices that matters. There are some indispensable nutrients which should be taken regularly. Read on for healthy dietary tips.  Want muscles?  Good nurtition and exercise are necessary.

Along with training, proper stretching and specific exercises, what matters most to athletes is a careful and planned intake of various nutrients like  vitamins,, proteins and carbohydrates. An intelligent athlete should know the importance of balanced workouts, exercises and  the intake of the necessary nutrients.

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Diets for athletes differ according to the sports they are involved in.

A diet for a sprinter is different from the diet of a weight lifter. An athlete should also know which food and drink items he or she needs to avoid, as wrong intake of nutrients restricts the growth of body tissues. During a workout, there is wear and tear of cells in muscles. To  build muscles , adequate nutrients in the diet are required. Some important nutrients for athletes are:

 

Proteins
Protein is very vital for athletes, however the focus should not be on protein alone. Excess protein and not enough complex carbohydrates, fruits and vegetables should be be avoided because it puts too much pressure on the kidneys and may also lead to dehydration. Proteins help in building muscle tissues. The main source of protein should ideally come from lean meat. 15 – 20% of protein intake in a day is sufficient for an athlete.

Carbohydrates
Carbohydrates provide quick and long-lasting energy, but too much of it can slow you down. 40 – 50% of carbohydrate calories should come from whole grain pasta, cereals and breads. This type of diet is rich in fiber. Carbohydrates also increase the stamina and ability to work.

Fats
Active young athletes require fat in their diet. Their bodies need unsaturated fat, e.g. nuts. When the body runs out of energy from carbohydrates, it relies on long term energy provided by fats. Fish is a very good source of fat.

Vitamins
Exercising produces some free radicals which can damage our cells. Hence, to minimize this damage we need to take Vitamin A, Vitamin C and Vitamin E. These vitamins are antioxidants and neutralize the free radicals. Green tea is an excellent antioxidant as well with additional benefits.  It is a good idea to use green tea and many    athletes use green tea    for faster fat burning, increased metabolism and speedier recovery.

green tea can be a part of healthy diet for athlete, picture

Minerals
Minerals like calcium and iron are good for health. Calcium strengthens the bones thus preventing stress fractures that are common in athletes. Skimmed milk, milk products and eggs are rich in calcium. Iron produces oxygen in the body. Deficiency of iron leads to fatigue and hinders the ability to perform for longer periods.

A basic table for the amount of nutrients to be taken is given below.

Nutrients Amount (of total calories) Source
Carbohydrates 50 – 60% Whole grains, whole wheat pasta, potatoes and beans
Proteins 15 – 20% Fish, poultry, meat, eggs, dairy, nuts and seeds
Fats 25 – 30% Nuts, seeds, vegetable oils, meat and eggs

6 Healthy Tips For Athletes

1. One of the biggest nutritional concern for athletes is water depletion, which occurs due to heavy and strenuous training, and causes dehydration. Dehydration in athletes and in general leads to weakness. Drinking lots of  water is the only remedy. Please avoid deminerilized water like Dasani and Aquafina. Bottled spring water with pH 7 and more is  OK. Some Ahletes thrive on and highly recommend Kangen Water.

2. Athletes need more calories than people who do not exercise. Intake of healthy snacks before a workout will provide the required energy. Some people feel very hungry after a workout, hence eating a good snack will not only provide necessary nutrients but also keep you from overeating during the main meal. Some healthy snacks are apple and banana slices, peanut butter, dry cereals with dry fruit, vegetable juice, whole grain and low-fat milk. Junk foods and fast foods are a strict “NO”

3. Eating regularly is very important. Athletes should take 5 small meals rather than 2 or 3 heavy meals. They should avoid snacking during day time, especially during an event or a workout. First two meals of the day are very crucial and should be large as compared to other meals of the day.

4. Timing of meals should be taken care of. If one is having a heavy meal, then it should be ensured that the meal is taken at least 4 hours before the workout. And if the meal is a lighter one, it can be taken 2 or 3 hours before the workout.

5. Vary your meal components  and make sure you use a balanced diet menu. Never stick to a limited diet. Sometimes, the athletes prefer a particular food and stick to it. This has two demerits: Firstly, you get bored of the diet, and secondly, eating the same diet will devoid your body of the various nutrients it needs.

6. Last and one of the biggest concerns of athletes today, is alcohol consumption. Nancy Clark, founder and CEO of WomensMedia, says “You can’t be sharp, quick and drunk.” Alcohol, a depressant, contributes about twice as many calories as equal amount of carbohydrates and proteins. It is needless to say, that calories in beer are fattening. If taken in large amount, alcohol can drastically decrease the level of serum testosterone which results in decrease in muscle recovery and athletic performance. It can cause testicular shrinkage and reduce the sperm count in males. In female athletes, it may raise the production of estradiol, a form of estrogen, which can increase the chances of breast cancer.

Athletes Require More Nutrients

Athletes generally require more nutrients than people who are not athletes.

Athletes lose a lot of nutrients when they sweat.

Eating foods rich in empty calories can deprive the organs of vital vitamins and minerals. This can increase the risk of heart attacks in athletes. Just as high octane fuel is good for motor vehicles, a good healthy diet is beneficial for athletes.  A sound mind and a sound body is a necessary combination without which it is impossible to achieve a real success.

Never underestimate the importance of healthy diet for athletes.

By Sourabh Gupta

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